Retrospective: Yamaha DT400 Enduro: 1975 — 1979 Rider Magazine

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Yamaha DT 400

Retrospective: Yamaha DT400 1975 – 1979

Photo Clement Salvadori


February 18, 2010

Test loved this new big-bore enduro. Go just about do just about anything and do it zip! The DT1 250 had grown up, first to 360 and now 400, and had become an extremely machine.

Weighing less 300 pounds, with equal of horsepower and torque, the oversquare two-… could tackle a in the Mojave Desert, climb trails high in the Rocky or hare along old logging in Maine.

These magazine were pretty darned and enjoyed pinning the throttle, and aft, making maximum use of the at all times. However, when it down to puttering along roads, the 400’s engine was not as smooth as many relaxed would have liked—good for the of competition, or the adrenalin-seeking individual off on his not so comfy for the commuter crowd.

1975 Yamaha DT400

We should go back to the beginning, was that excellent DT1 250 of 1968. The had finally realized that was a specific “American” market, did not exist in Japan or Europe—and it was riders who wanted to make use of our publicly owned wilderness, and do it at a that could give a rise to the adrenalin level. The “street scramblers” were not suitable, being way too street and not nearly scramblerish enough.

One of the blessings of this great of ours are those huge of unoccupied land, and all that was was a properly set up motorcycle to enjoy the of thousands of miles of dirt and trails…and a big gas tank was very too.

The DT1 was a superb motorcycle off the drawing board, as its two-…, single with five provided the good lowend that play-bikers wanted. realized that there was a big between a machine that win races and a machine that a rider would enjoy.

1975 Yamaha DT400

This unitized powerplant was into a cradle frame a double loop, plenty enough to cope with the 22 horsepower. It was great fun without too finicky. And just in case wanted to race it, a Genuine Tuning kit with a new cylinder, expansion chamber, etc. was as well.

Dealers could not them in stock. And the competitive MX and YZ that followed were snapped up by racers. As was the smaller AT1 Enduro that soon and, in 1970, the bigger RT1 360 Enduro with a bore of …, 70mm. Then in the RT1 was modified and reintroduced as the DT360A the Yamaha marketing types that the success of the original DT1 250 value to those DT letters.

The used a lot of MX parts, including the to give it both sportier and more power. Also new was the induction system and CDI ignition, did away with the oft-times points.

1975 Yamaha DT400

But the DT360A was a one-year only as Yamaha soon realized there had not been enough from the previous RT—so lo and in 1975 the DT400B appeared, the having been bored out to for a total of 397cc. It was crowned a very … new head radial finning.

The Mikuni was the 32mm size, and with the valves this made for a thirsty engine, getting 30 mpg or less when honking a sand wash—and the smallish gas only held 2.4 gallons. certainly restricted the range, though the oil tank for the automatic held 1.6 quarts, and was good for two gas tanks.

Primary power through helical gears to the clutch, and then into the transmission. At the rear wheel the measured almost 24 horsepower at rpm, and 24 lb-ft of torque at rpm. Happiness for the experienced was best found at 5,000 and in fifth gear on a straight of road the bike could exceed 80 mph.

Yamaha DT 400
Yamaha DT 400

However, with a steepish of 30 degrees, and 5.1 inches of trail, speeds were not pursued for The fork used progressive with three stages; the shocks at the rear had double and remote reservoirs. A 3.00 x 21 Trials tire was on the front, a x 18 on the back…though a 4.50 knobby be squeezed in.

The single-leading-shoe brakes intended for dirt riding, and cause a mild panic attempting a fast, unplanned on the pavement. The wheelbase was 56 inches.

Yamaha DT400 Enduro.

The problem was in starting the bike. A single two-… is a hefty to get fired, and while the automatic release worked like a the CDI could be less cooperative starting off first thing in the Also, when the engine was a rider could spend a lot of kicking.

As one magazine put it, there was no sure-fire that could be followed, and lacked any predictability.

Once the DT400 was a trifle lurchy on the as the engine did not really take to a constant throttle—unless it was constantly open. On first look, thought they would these bikes by the thousands, at $1,370. However, a year the noncurrent 1975 models on sale for $948.

Even the less-than-expected sales, Yamaha on improving the DT400, making the suspension a mono-shocker for 1977.

Yamaha DT400 Enduro.

was also trying to enlarge the for these big-bore twostrokes, a race version YZ400, and for they put lights and a muffler on the YZ and it as a serious enduro model, the trying to compete with the ISDT models. But the two-… era was to an end, and Yamaha knew it.

Which is why in 1976 Yamaha a 500cc four-… single in the XT and off-road TT versions. The DT400 was on the payroll until 1979, and retired.

(This Retrospective was published in the February 2010 of Rider magazine.)

Yamaha DT 400
Yamaha DT 400
Yamaha DT 400
Yamaha DT 400
Yamaha DT 400
Yamaha DT 400
Yamaha DT 400


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